#MeetTheMember Ben Karl, Translator & Copywriter, BK Translation

Member news | May 21, 2020

In our latest Meet The Member feature, we spoke with Ben Karl, MBA, CT, a certified corporate, marketing, and financial translator from French and Mandarin into English.

Ben has been helping French- and Chinese-speaking companies of all sizes establish or strengthen their voices in the English-speaking world since 2013, delivering communications that aren’t just effective, but beautiful, too. He specializes in translating financial and non-financial reporting, business plans, website copy, press releases, and more into spot-on English to help companies convey key information to their stakeholders. He has had extensive experience living in France, Quebec, and China and returns often. In his spare time, you can find him on the beach, in the mountains, or in his garden.

FACC-NY: Can you tell me a bit about how you became a certified corporate translator?

Thank you so much for the chance to do this Meet the Member feature! I originally studied to be a translator and received a bachelor’s degree in translation from McGill University in Montreal, but at that point, I hadn’t developed a specialization yet. After graduation, I enrolled in the Beijing Language and Culture University and while living in China, I had the opportunity to work for a Canadian provincial trade development office, where I not only worked on translations into English but also drafted presentations, did trade research, wrote reports, and worked on client outreach. I developed an interest in effective corporate communications while I was there. I started my translation career at a large, multi-national language services provider based in New York City where I was thrust into the corporate environment and worked on corporate communications for clients all over the world. So, when I opened my own translation business in 2013, corporate communications was an area that I already had a background and a keen interest in. After being in business for several years, I had the opportunity to complete an MBA, which further solidified my knowledge in the field. And finally, in 2017 I took and passed the American Translators Association certification exam for French to English translation, which only has a 20% pass rate. Since then, I’ve focused my practice as a certified translator almost exclusively on helping French- and Chinese-speaking companies communicate effectively in English.

FACC-NY: What is the importance of language in the world of business?

Language is important everywhere, not just in the world of business. Global business runs on communication for sealing deals, providing timely information to stakeholders, and communicating value to employees and customers, who will hopefully, in turn, part with their hard-earned money for the product or service a business offers. Think of what can happen when communication is bad or breaks down and the operational risks that can create for a business. Translation is often considered an afterthought, but I would argue that bad translation is where the real operational risk lies. These days, English is increasingly becoming the lingua franca of business, and businesses working in the US need to be able to communicate effectively in English. That’s where good translation comes in.

FACC-NY: If you are able to share, is there a personal or professional project that really inspired or challenged you?

One of my clients recently decided to pivot their manufacturing capabilities to make non-medical face masks. I had previously translated their website, a series of blog posts, and web copy for one kind of product, and suddenly they had a very short timeline to create a whole new section for these masks on their website. I helped them create a landing page, new product descriptions, an FAQ page, subtitles for a video with the CEO, and the copy for their online store. During the process, there was some confusion about terminology where my francophone client insisted on using two particular English terms to describe these masks that I believed were incorrect. I looped in an ICU nurse and a general physician to research these terms and find out what my client should be using to ensure the terms were 100% correct. I felt proud leveraging my network to confirm this specialized terminology and create a website that my client could be proud of, too.

FACC-NY: How would you describe your approach to translation?

Translation isn’t just about words, it’s about conveying the right message. It’s recreating something that reads like it was originally written in English, which sounds like a deceptively simple task. French corporate communications often work in fundamentally different ways than English ones; sentences and ideas are constructed differently; for financial communications, the regulatory framework and accounting standards are different and have specific terminology; stakeholders expect to be spoken to in different ways, from the C-suite all the way to Main Street. All these factors have to be taken into account, while also creating something that’s easy and pleasant to read. So, my approach is to connect with the writer or communications director to ensure that I’ve understood what their needs and goals are, find out as much about the target audience as I can, and then deliver a translation that not only conveys the client’s information effectively, but beautifully, too.

FACC-NY: Why did you join the FACC-NY?

While I’m a New Yorker by birth, I currently live in Los Angeles and am also a member of FACC-LA. When California’s safer at home order kept us from being able to network in person, I started attending and have really been enjoying FACC-NY’s webinars. So, after attending three, I spoke with Jérémie and John and decided to join FACC-NY, too. FACC-NY clearly has a vibrant and interesting community of professionals in many industries where I know I can add value, and I’m looking forward to being able to connect with them through the Chamber.

Interested in connecting with Ben? Log into the FACC Member Directory to send him a message.